back to article Ministry of Defence's cyber warfare drive is helping burn a hole through its budget, warns UK's National Audit Office

The Ministry of Defence's multibillion budget overrun has been caused in part because of its spending splurge on flashy new "cyber" capabilities, according to the National Audit Office. The MoD faces an "unaffordable" spending plan between now and 2030 thanks to poor management and planning, said the NAO in its latest report …

  1. Wellyboot Silver badge
    Holmes

    They're a government organisation

    >>>their answers begin and end with "throw more money at us."<<<

    obvious icon, but TBH is there any other way?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They're a government organisation

      Employ competent people that are at the top of their game and therefore far better value?

      Or is that too radical?

  2. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Fine... but now what?

    NAO moan about Departmental, Programme and Project budgets being in exception... but then what?

    MoD goes away slightly chastised but without any real actions or requirements to bring things back into line.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Fine... but now what?

      Never forget the (updated) golden rule: those with the depleted uranium rounds make the rules

  3. Peter2 Silver badge

    This does appear to be missing the real question of if a "cyber" capability should in fact be being managed by the Ministry of Defence at all. You'd think the MOD would have enough to deal with handling physical threats without acquiring a massive new remit.

    Scope creep kills. The MOD has a particular mindset that specialises in particular things that is not well suited to dealing with things like "Cyber", or as IT people like to call it "Computers". My first impression is that something of this nature might (would probably?) be better dealt with by getting staff from GCHQ to create it rather than staff from the MOD.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Given the nature of modern military equipment, I would imagine in a war against a major adversary, that some king of counter cyber warfare would be necessary in the field as well as based at somewhere like GCHQ.

      I can't see a combatant in the field during a battle getting much joy from calling a help desk miles away from the battle.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Did someone mention DXC?

        Service Level Agreements you can believe in. Or was that "Change"?

        ;)

    2. Smooth Newt Silver badge
      Happy

      Scope creep kills. The MOD has a particular mindset that specialises in particular things that is not well suited to dealing with things like "Cyber", or as IT people like to call it "Computers". My first impression is that something of this nature might (would probably?) be better dealt with by getting staff from GCHQ to create it rather than staff from the MOD.

      I don't think "cyber" is an appropriate activity for the MOD. It is a bit like putting the Royal Armoured Corps under the operational command of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

      The activity is fundamentally different to running a navy or an air force etc. Most MOD campaigns are short running, very limited in scope, and most of the expenditure is on equipment and consumables like missiles. "Cyber" is low level, long term and almost all the costs are in manpower.

      It also requires extensive engagement with civilians outside the organisation, since civilian infrastructure is the usual target for enemy attackers, and in fact civilians will always have to do most of the defending. I don't think the British military really does civilian engagement (except in a kinetic sense).

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Smooth Newt Silver badge
          Meh

          If a foreign power blew up a powerline by software, VS gentlemen in balaclavas with semtex VS uniformed troops in Heinekels - we don't currently have the army deal with those.

          If the power line has been destroyed then there is not a lot that can be done to prevent it without some sort of time travel capability.

          But preventing it from being destroyed before the event means people working at the power company looking for intrusion attempts, and people working for the manufacturer of the hardware manufacturers examining it for vulnerabilities. Repeat thirty thousand times across industry, commerce, local government, healthcare etc. I don't think this is really a job for the military.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Already done: https://www.gchq.gov.uk/news/national-cyber-force - it's a joint venture.

    4. Tachisme

      You're correct, but GCHQ are largely responsible - this is indeed the MOD's desperate quest for relevance. Perversely, that quest will further damage what the department does actually need to be able to do: generate force elements at readiness for specified military tasks.

      For many reasons, the armed forces are the wrong place to attempt to curate cyber capabilities. Not least, the sort of people who want to join and stay in the military to wear uniforms, obey orders, have short haircuts, do annual fitness and weapons handling tests, etc. are usually not the same sort of people who are the best possible 'cyber operators'.

  4. cosymart
    Go

    The MOD needs "Cyber" you can count tanks, warships and planes. Try and count "Cyber" :-)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ...flashy new cyber "capabilities"...

    TFTFY

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "and its estimate of the funding shortfall...

    in the 2020-2030 Plan is likely to understate the growing financial pressures that it faces."

    Just like every other department then.

    Apparently, there are legends from eons ago of countries pooling resources for the greater good... oh wait, or was that last year?

    1. not.known@this.address Silver badge

      Re: "and its estimate of the funding shortfall...

      "Apparently, there are legends from eons ago of countries pooling resources for the greater good... oh wait, or was that last year?"

      And apparently there are legends that certain foreign manufacturers refused to supply the ammunition and equipment the MoD had paid for because they did not like the fact that the MoD had its own ideas - as instructed by the British government of the day - as to who that stuff could be used on. (Fabrique Nationale, for it was they, apparently felt they had a right to decide who the MoD could fall out with and who we couldn't...)

      Apparently there are legends that one particular foreign government has "baked in" software that will allow them to prevent other nations using "their" brand-new sneaky WhizzJets against anyone that particular foreign government wants to protect (the arms and ammo story is true [allegedly*], this one - not so much).

      [allegedly*] in a legal sense, as in "The sun also shines at night [allegedly*]"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "and its estimate of the funding shortfall...

        Indeed, the Yanks are known for it.

        Which is why many countries avoid buying from them.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I hear Chinese products are good value

    if you're looking to save tax payers money.

    But you're probably not...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I hear Chinese products are good value

      I think SolarWinds is having a sale too

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "unaffordable spending plan ...thanks to poor management and planning"

    Tell us something we don't know - you don't create a £30B black hole in your budget by being competent at that stuff.

    In the real world, you'd be sacked.

    :(

  9. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    What do you call parched horses that you take to water and they don't drink?

    Two relatively short, although extremely informative, attachments entitled Proposed Technology for Submission to AWE 2020 and Novel Total Information Awareness delivered to the MOD/Army via their provided portal, DES-AWE at mod dot gov dot uk at 15:25:35 BST on 30 September 2019 would dispel any thought that the MOD don't know what to do in the future, in order to protect and serve and provide the Objective .... Operational Theatre Advantage/Situational Supremacy ..... and which is Ready for immediate deployment with both a Technical and an Operational Description supplied for consideration.

    However, how they are actually getting on with it, is something you will have to ask them yourself although whether they reply or not may be somewhat dependent upon whether they be more or less intelligent than the competition or opposition/friendly ally or hostile enemy.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Because things presently are definitely not as they were in the past ...

      .... ...don't worry about future thinking and acting too differently:-) IT be the New Stealthy

      UKGBNI's National Cyber Force and MoD Commanders talk a Great IntelAIgent Game, and Strategic Command can even supply a convenient hitlist/virtual wishlist ...... Strategic Command Innovation Charter .... but as is the case in all such developments as may be classified sensitive and best cloaked in a garb of secrecy to aid in the assurance of security, things can fail spectacularly and/or valuable opportunities can be lost and exported to other competitors should further discrete ACTive and astute meaningful direct contact at home with principal movers and shakers/leaders be unprovided/AWOL/MIA.

      Although the problems arising about any opportunities that are best discussed in private with particular individuals highlighted as being thought instrumental in future provision can be outed, with caution being thrown to the wind to cause all manner of both convenient and inconvenient ripples via the simple expedient of sharing wishes with a carbon copy [cc] tag.

      So, .... with specific regard to all of the above, one is bound to ask ..... What is the current UKGBNI State of Global Virtual Great Games Play should the above aforementioned brace of AWE*some submissions be on ACTive AIMissions in Special Operations .... for Future Utilisation in Theatres of Alien Quantum Engagement invite strange participation elsewhere foreign exploring supremacy in novel noble information sharing and intelligence internetworking fields as is revealed to everyone on Earth in this tale ........ The quantum leap forward:

      * Army Warfighting Experiment

      cc .... Gen Patrick Sanders .... Commander UKStratCom

      Maj Gen Jim Morris .... Director Joint Warfare

      [2101151226]

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Global Operating Devices at Your Service/Beck and Emergency Call

        All that needs to be truly said after these past few days of deafening silence, given what you all now know are developments being shared with the UKGBNI Ministry of Defence for future utilisations in ACTive theatres of defence and/or attacking engagement, and what primary principals leading in those engaging theatres would then themselves now know of the state of UKGBNI MoDified preparedness for Future ACTivIT AIMissions, is GOD help you, for if the truth be presently told, they haven't a clue about what is going to befall them, betraying as they do all who have put their trust and invested billions in their forces to protect and server them from the harm that corrupt and perverse establishments deliver in furtherance of the continued survival of their masters' own single-minded, self-serving psychotic gains. ..... although, as an Evil Live and Live Evil Exercising Destructive Instructions in your Midsts are they catastrophically vulnerable to being instantly easily recognised as the Mortal Enemy Within to be Excised and Executed/Effectively Outed and Permanently Destroyed.

        cc .... Commander General UKStratCom and Major General Director JOINT* Warfare

        * ..... Joint Operations Internetworking Novel Technologies

      2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: Because things presently are definitely not as they were in the past ...

        Oh look, MoD ....... https://www.theregister.com/2021/01/18/ai_in_brief/ ....... friendly trailing Uncle Sam competition ‽ .

        And I say that most sincerely, folks.

  10. Automatic

    Simple shoring up

    How much money would it cost to hire a couple people to go around the country and slap people upside the head for piss poor basic cyber security?

    Some may do it just for the slapping.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ministry of Defence -- or Ministry of War?

    Quote: "....focus, quite wisely, on the rising digital threats posed by the likes of Russia and China....."

    *

    Ah......so only DEFENSIVE capabilities in the GIGANTIC budget?

    *

    Then.....they probably need EVEN MORE money for enabling cyber for ATTACK? Like:

    -- https://theintercept.com/2014/12/13/belgacom-hack-gchq-inside-story/

    .......but run by the armed forces and not the snoops in Cheltenham. Mind you, why the snoops needed to steal the secrets of Belgian chocolate with UK taxpayer money, I guess we will never know!

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